The National Weather Service will roll out a new weather radar website in December that makes it much easier to keep track of storms around the country. The new website, which is gloriously mobile-friendly, will provide a happy medium for folks who are tired of fuzzy radars on free apps or don’t want to spend money for access to a premium radar app.
Finding decent weather radar imagery online has always been a bit tricky. Some sites oversimplify the radar so much that it looks like a cartoon, while other outlets make their radar so complicated that casual users can hardly figure out how to find their own house.
The National Weather Service’s current radar website, called RIDGE I, was always fine in a pinch. It’s simple, updates frequently, and includes warning polygons so you can see where the strongest storms are located.
The biggest drawback is that the old website is a product of the early 2000s and its age caught up with it. Not only are the static images not interactive—preventing you from zooming in or seeing finer details—but those images were once looped using Java, a plugin that’s no longer supported by modern browsers, and more recently displayed as animated GIFs.
The agency’s new website solves those issues and then some. RIDGE II is in preview mode right now, but it’s scheduled to become fully operational on December 16 at radar.weather.gov.
The site is pretty intuitive, especially if you’re used to using maps on your phone or on a computer. Best of all, the site is compatible with mobile devices, which is still a bit of a gamble with other sites. RIDGE II is built using HTML5 so that it’s compatible with most browsers—desktop and mobile—without requiring extra plugins for use.
RIDGE II opens to a national radar mosaic, allowing you to explore precipitation across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam. You can zoom down to city level, making it easy to spot where you live and other areas of interest with ease. But it’s what you can do beyond the overview that really gives this website a leg up.
NOAA’s network of weather radars, called NEXRAD, is made up of more than 150 radar sites spread across the country and its territories. The national mosaic radar is an overview of all those sites sewn together with the edges smoothed out, giving us a clear picture of precipitation as it moves over large areas of the country.
Using the drop-down menu on the top-left portion of the map, you can explore individual radar sites around the country. Looking at a certain radar site’s feed gives you a high-resolution look at storms. Greater detail allows you to spot areas of heavy precipitation, hail, and even tornadoes.
The website also features products that let you analyze the radar beyond simply seeing where it’s raining right now. Precipitation estimates give a good idea of where flooding is possible. High-resolution velocity imagery lets you see the winds within a storm. This is great for weather enthusiasts who have experience with looking for damaging winds or tight rotation within strong thunderstorms.
Not only does RIDGE II show you the radar, but tapping on any location in the United States—or typing in an address, city, or zip code in the search bar at the top—will bring up a detailed seven-day forecast for that location, complete with a temperature graph to see trends at a glance. With the addition of this forecast feature, it’s possible to ditch your favorite weather app and bookmark this site on your home screen instead.